Levi Strauss

The most famous five-pocket jeans in the world. A legendary brand, with almost 150 years of history, became one of the most representative symbols of costume evolution in the 20th century. Levi Strauss, from Bavaria, moved to New York in 1847. Three years later he left for the West with the intention of selling packaging cloth to gold miners. However, he was the one who discovered a gold mine, by using that same cloth to make cheap, resistant trousers for the men who went seeking their own fortunes. Levi Strauss & Co. was established in San Francisco, where its founder lived until his death in 1902. The company passed to his grandchildren, who expanded the business. But the crisis of 1929 brought about a huge transformation in the company’s clientele, and new social groups decided the universal success of Levi’s as leisure garments, not simply as working pants. The boom in jeans has never ceased since the 1950s-60s: the young during the era of protest elected the mythical 501’s as the uniform that signified opposition to conservative bourgeois respectability; jeans — the unisex garment par excellence — has overcome generational, social, and cultural barriers to conquer the planet. Levi Strauss & Co. is still the world’s leading manufacturer of jeanswear and the strongest and most recognized jeans brand internationally.
&Quad;2000. The reorganization strategy of the brand continued, with the year closing with a turnover of 4.6 billion dollars. In order to face the crisis, the San Francisco group cut the workforce and closed plants. Robert Hanson, President of Levi’s Europe, said: “At world level we have been able to stop the decline in sales, which have diminished 9.6% compared to the 13.7% of 1999.”
&Quad;2001, November. The shoe business was strengthened with the introduction of a new line, Original Levi’s.
&Quad;2001. The year closed with a turnover of 4.26 billion dollars, a decline of 8.3% on the year 2000. The fall was greater in the American market. Net profits of 151 million dollars crashed 32.4%.
&Quad;2002, April. The company announced a jobs cutting exercise of 3,300 places and the closure of six plants in the USA. Jeans production was decentralized to external factories, while the remaining plants produced other clothing lines.
&Quad;2002. Turnover of 4.13 billion dollars represented a fall of 3%, while net profits of 25 million dollars were a crash of 84%. The sharp decline in profits was the result of reorganization costs, without which net profits would have diminished only 24%. The company’s debts fell to 100 million dollars. The company numbered 12,000 workers.
&Quad;2003, March. The first quarter closed in the red, with profits of 24 million dollars against 42 millions in the same period a year before.
&Quad;2003, June. Levi’s celebrated 150 years of activity with a strategy of attack. First, the women’s sector: the first Levi’s store dedicated exclusively to women is opened in Paris in July. Then, production and distribution. “In the last five years,” explained Joe Middleton, the European President of the group, “the market of denim has witnessed a boom. For us this meant a decline in sales. Jeans had become trendy, fashion, everyone has produced low quality garments, embroidered and strange jeans, and lots of new companies have joined the business.” The American company made the mistake of sitting on a successful formula that had lasted 150 years and stopped updating its product. (Dario Golizia)